Where Are They Now?

Last updated : 14 August 2019 By Jim Bonner

Seven years ago today a young Pompey side were beaten 3-0 by Plymouth Argyle at Home Park in the first round of the League Cup.

Michael Appleton wasn't allowed to sign the players he had been trialling over pre-season until the 2012/2013 League One opener against Bournemouth and therefore had to pick an extremely youthful team against their League Two opponents.

The average age of the side was 19.8 years old and when 35-year-old Ashley Westwood came off with injury, that average age was reduced to 18.1 years old. The formation and positions were tricky to work out and remember so I've tried to recall the best I can as Appleton attempted to contain Plymouth initially with a 5-4-1 formation.

But where are these players now? Have the football Gods granted these boys who turned to men favour or have they disappeared into football obscurity? Let's find out, shall we?

Goalkeeper: Simon Eastwood

At 23-years-old, Eastwood was considered one of the veterans of that team having only played regularly for Halifax the season before. The goalkeeper couldn't force his way past loanee Mikkel Andersen at the start of the season but when Andersen returned to Reading, the number one spot was his.

Simon left Pompey after that season and earned himself a move to Blackburn, making just a handful of appearances in three years before signing for Oxford and finally establishing himself as their number one goalkeeper for seasons to come.

Right Back: Adam Webster

Webster actually made his Pompey debut as a 17-year-old in the Championship against West Ham the season before, but he mainly played for the club at right back during his early years at Fratton Park and spent the next season on loan at Aldershot.

It wasn't until Paul Cook began playing Adam at centre back when his full potential started to be realised. Ipswich signed him for a substantial fee and threw Matt Clarke into the deal too. He spent two seasons there before Bristol City paid £3.5 million for him and then this summer Brighton paid £20 million for his services, meaning Webster has completed his journey from non-league loanee to Premier League defender.

Centre Back: Ashley Westwood

Westwood initially joined Pompey as part of Michael Appleton's coaching staff but was forced to play at Plymouth at the age of 35 due to the lack of players in the squad. He lasted just 34 minutes before injury forced him off and he was substituted for Jack Maloney.

After that, Westwood followed Michael Appleton to Blackpool and then Blackburn before he was sacked. He then became the very first head coach of Indian side Bengaluru and won the I-League in his first season and then again in 2016 before leaving by mutual consent. He has since managed Penang FA and was interim boss of another indian side in ATK after they sacked Teddy Sheringham, eventually replacing him with Robbie Keane.

Centre Back: Alex Grant

The Australian defender was one of seven debutantes making their Pompey bow but he couldn't stake a claim in the first team. He was briefly loaned to Eastleigh in 2012 and then to Havant & Waterlooville the following year.

Pompey released Grant in the summer of 2013 and was snapped up by Stoke City but was soon on loan again, this time at Macclesfield Town. The Potters released Alex in 2015 and he made the decision to return to his home country (despite being born in Manchester) and sign for Perth Glory, where he has played ever since.

Centre Back: Sam Magri

Born in Portsmouth, Magri was touted for big things having had a trial with Liverpool whilst an academy prospect in February 2012 but a move failed to materialise. Instead, he made his debut at Plymouth aged 18 before being allowed to join Premier League side QPR but never made an appearance for them, just playing a few games for Nuneaton Borough on loan in 2014.

Crystal Palace then signed him but again, he never made a single appearance for the Eagles and had to rebuild his career at sem-pro level in non-league with Dover Athletic where he was able to nail a first team place down and earn a move to Ebbsfleet in 2017. In the summer of 2019 he was released and opted to join Havant & Waterlooville in the National League South. Magri also represents Malta at international level.

Left Back: Dan Butler

Another to make his debut in the League Cup game, Dan was able to hold onto his first team place for periods of the season and continued to play for Pompey in League Two after loan spells at the Hawks and the Shots until Paul Cook decided to release him in 2015.

Butler rebuilt his career in non-league with Torquay and his performances there earned him a move back to the Football League with Newport whose fans named him their player of the season in 2017 and 2018. At the age of 24, Peterborough signed him from the Exiles to bring him back to League One football.

Right Midfield: Ashley Harris

Harris looked like one of Pompey's brighter prospects, making his first appearance for the club as a sub during a 4-1 win over Birmingham in the Championship in 2012. He started the following season in League One brightly, scoring three goals for the club but his star soon faded quickly.

By 2014 following a combined 9 appearances for Havant & Waterlooville, Chelmsford and Bognor Regis, Harris was released and signed a dual-contract with Gosport Borough and Horndean FC. As of 2016 Harris currently plays for Moneyfields in the Southern League Division One South; the eighth tier of English football.

Centre Midfield: George Colson

Another to play his first minutes for Pompey in that League Cup game, George spent a month on loan at Dorchester and then Bashley in the 2012/2013 before being released. He then signed permanently for the latter club but left in 2014 for Fareham Town and then Newport (Isle of Wight) until settling at Salisbury in 2015.

Centre Midfield: Jed Wallace

Despite joining Pompey in 2011 and being loaned Farnborough whilst his parent club were being relegated from the Championship, Jed was another to make his Blues bow at Home Park in 2012. He was then loaned to Whitehawk in the Isthiman League and his performances earned him rave reviews, meaning he returned to Pompey and made his league debut on New Year's Day in 2013, when Portsmouth lost 5-0 at Swindon.

Jed became one of the star players during the first two years of Pompey's tenure in League Two, winning the club's player of the season award in 2015 before being snapped up by Championship side Wolves. He wasn't quite ready for the second tier and had a couple of loan spells at Millwall before making the move permanent in 2017, returning to the Championship and carving a successful career for himself.

Left Midfield: Andy Higgins

Like Alex Grant, Higgins originally joined Pompey from Australian side ECU Joondalup and made his professional debut against Plymouth. He cancelled his contract with Portsmouth in search of first team football back in his home city with Perth Glory but never made a senior appearance for them, either. In 2014 Higgins returned to Joondalup and has been there ever since.

Centre Forward: Dan Thompson

Signed from Hampton & Richmond as a scholar, Thompson was loaned to Havant & Waterlooville in January 2012 before playing for Pompey at Plymouth. Dan has become quite the journeyman during his career having played four more spells at Hampton & Richmond, two at Bognor Regis and in between those he has played for Farnborough, Redhill, Walton & Hersham, Bedford Sports and Chipstead.

Thompson did settle for a while when he signed for Burgess Hill Town in 2016 but soon moved onto Tonbridge Angels and then Braintree Town where he was a part of their promotion winning squad into the National League. He made a handful of appearances there before turning out for Dulwich Hamlet and as of June 2019 he is now playing for Kingston.

Substitute: Jack Maloney (on for Westwood 32nd minute)

Coming on to make his debut at the age of 17, Jack also made his league debut for Pompey in the dying minutes of the 2-0 win over Bury at Fratton Park in March 2013. The following season he had loan spells with Aldershot, Lewes and Poole Town before being released from Pompey in March 2015.

Maloney signed for Bognor Regis just minutes later but couldn't earn a first team position there and he now plays as a winger for Horndean FC.

Substitute: Bradley Tarbuck (on for Higgins 72nd minute)

Like Jack, Bradley made his Pompey debut coming off the bench and after that built himself a reputation as a goal machine for the academy. He also made his league debut against Carlisle at Fratton Park in November 2014 when Pompey were already 3-0 up.

Maloney was loaned to Dartford soon after but barely made an appearance before another loan move to Dorchester which was more successful, earning himself a permanent contract there after being released by Pompey. His performances there earned him a move to Havant & Waterlooville and now, as a left wing-back, he has become a key player in the team.

Substitute: Jack Whatmough (Unused)

It may seem like Jack has been around forever but he was only 15-years-old when he appeared on the bench for the Plymouth cup tie. He didn't make his first appearance for Pompey until a 2-1 home defeat to Southend in November 2013 and has had to combat numerous injuries despite only being 22-years-old. Here's hoping he is back to full fitness soon and able to become a key member of Kenny Jackett's League One squad.

So, there you have it. Disregarding Westwood, out of the 13 youngsters featured in this piece only one has made it to the top flight and only one can call himself a Championship player. Just three are playing in League One with two players opting to play in Australia's lower divisions. The other six have fallen into the obscurity of English football's non-league system which simply shows just how difficult it can be to become a professional footballer no matter how highly you might be rated as a youngster.

It'll be interesting to see just how the careers of these players continue as they play through their twenties and into their thirties but some of them have managed to turn their fortunes around and more of them may yet as seven years is a long time in football.

After all, prior to this game Pompey fans were singing along merrily with Plymouth supporters about hating their red-and-white striped rivals having been united by their football clubs almost going extinct. Now just the mention of Argyle is enough to rile some Blues fans who consider them their second-most hated club after Southampton.

Football can be very fickle most of the time.